A Haerr Happening...

We enjoyed a post-Thanksgiving get together with most of the family gathered.

In an effort to get a Christmas card photo for mom, we did a series of photos.  This one, of all of us in a lip-lock, is my favorite especially if it's titled Merry KISSmas.  But that's just me.
The family...
It was a perfect day of great food, much needed reconnects and a whole lot of laughing... a true Haerr Happening!

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Thanksgiving in Murrieta...

What a treat to be here with the folks, for the first Thanksgiving in their new home.

What a fun gathering...
Our celebratory lunch was a scrumptious buffet at the Bear Creek Golf Club.
There was a selection of all of our favorite traditional holiday foods and more.  Everything was so delicious.  We were extremely content and full.
Afterward, we went back home and Skyped with the kids who were together in Santa Rosa, which made me a happy mom.
We have so much for which to be thankful.  What a lovely day of remembering that fact.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tuesday in Trona...

Continuing with our goal of seeing new sights on our 395 trek, we took the 30 mile detour to the town of Trona, CA.

In 1873, John Searles began mining borax in this desolate area of San Bernardino County.
The town of Trona was officially established in 1913, as a self-contained company town, wholly operated by its resident mining company to house employees. Employees were paid in company scrip instead of cash. The mining company also built a library, a scrip-accepting for-profit grocery store, a school, basic housing, and minimal recreation facilities. The Trona Railway was built in 1913–14 to provide the town with a rail connection to the Southern Pacific (now the Union Pacific) line at Searles. The railway still operates today.
In its heyday, Trona had a population of 6,000 and its school band even play in the Second Annual Disneyland Holiday Festival.  How cool is that?
Economic booms and busts followed. Its most notable boom occurred during World War I, when Trona was the only reliable American source of potash, an important element used in the production of gunpowder.  Interestingly, during the time of organized claim-jumping of mining claims at Searles Lake, in 1910, Wyatt Earp was arrested at Slate Range City during the little-remembered Potash Wars. This eventually led to the founding of Trona and the industrial development of Searles Valley.
The local high school plays on a dirt football field because the searing heat and highly saline soil kills grass.  Besides in Alaska, this is the only high school in America that does not play on grass. At one point it boasted an 18 hole golf course that was all sand except for the "greens", which were a softer grade of brown colored dirt.
Today, Searles Valley Minerals Inc.'s soda ash processing plant remains the largest firm in town. Other operations nearby include evaporative salt extraction from the dry lake bed's surface, and a lime quarry. Searles Valley Minerals is the largest employer in Trona.
We toured the Old Guest House Historical Society Museum with Kathe, who moved there as a teenager in 1946.  This gave us great insight into this unique town.  Lunch at Esparza Family Restaurant was a welcomed glimpse into the local life.  While the town is in decline, I found it very interesting and intriguing.  It was a worthwhile detour off the beaten path.
Next stop was a six mile drive, down a bumpy dirt road to visit to the Trona Pinnacles. Described as "being a journey into one of the most unusual geologic wonders in the California Desert. This unique landscape consists of more than 500 tufa (calcium carbonate) pinnacles rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. These tufa spires, some as high as 140 feet, were formed underwater 10,000 to 100,000 years ago when Searles Lake formed a link in an interconnected chain of Pleistocene lakes stretching from Mono Lake to Death Valley."
This landscape is surreal, so much so a number of Hollywood films have been made here, including Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Planet of the Apes.
To wander amongst these amazing formations, truly out in the middle of nowhere, was an awe-inspiring experience.  It is a "must-do"!

Located in Poison Canyon, this was the image we glimpsed as we left this awesome part of the world.  In the 40s, Joe Fox was moved to add his own artistic touches, on a strange choice of canvas, to what has become a beloved landmark to residents and tourists, alike. 
So far, this is one of my most favorite detours off our road frequently traveled.  I really recommend an explore of Trona and its treasures.

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Monday in Tahoe...

This is what today looked like in our little town...

Jenny was lakeside and sent me this amazing image of a girl starting her day in a truly unique Tahoe way.  Note:  she is fully clothed.
I began my day at Fern's with some of my favorite things:  coffee, quiche, Scrabble and Pumpkin Pie... a great way to start the week.
Dinner was at MontBleu for 99¢ tacos and margaritas followed by movie night!
Bob and Jenny, along with Carol, Steve and myself, had not seen the movie, Gravity so while it was still at the Heavenly Village Cinema, we saw it in 3D- incredible.
And just to end the day with a little magic, the music and merriment of the outdoor ice rink made the evening complete.  Still loving Tahoe!

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The Elves of Valhalla...

Cyndy thought it would be fun for us gals to be in costume as we volunteered for the Valhalla Holiday Faire.  Oh my gosh, she was so right.

Bob's "Of Wood & Whimsy" did a brisk business all day.  It was fun to stand back and listen to all the positive feedback he received.
There was something for everyone from baked goods to toffee and everything in between.
School children sang, filling the Grand Hall with the most beautiful sounds.  It was magical.
I ran into so many people I knew and even got to sit on Santa's lap.  What a day!
What better ending, for our incredible day, than a 'bear hunt' at Taylor Creek?
So we never saw a bear, but this duck 'ice skating' was a pretty rewarding sight.  The creek was mostly frozen and quite dramatic.
Today was one of those days, full of simple pleasures.  The kind of day whose memories make you smile.  Silly and fun.  I would say- a perfect day!

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Opening Day at Heavenly...

Steve utilized his ski pass to be a part of it all.  He didn't ski but he took the Gondola up and checked out all the enthusiastic boarders and skiers.

There were hundreds of people in line for the ONE lift that was open.  His plan is to go back on Monday, when the crowds are gone. 

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A Chautauqua of Theodore Roosevelt...

We spent a truly unique evening with Cathy and John at the Mark Twain Cultural Center in Incline Village in the presence of Teddy Roosevelt, himself.

DOUG MISHLER was incredible as our 26th President and he should totally know all about this part of our history.  He has a Ph.D. in American cultural history from UNR and has made numerous presentations as William Lloyd Garrison, World War II journalist Ernie Pyle, explorer and statesman Capt. William Clark, and industrialist Andrew Carnegie.
Chautauqua was an adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Named after Chautauqua Lake where the first was held, Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s.  Now they are having a resurgence and we were excited about this one.  We walked away knowing so much more about the Bull Moose.  I love an evening where it ends and I was not only entertained, but informed!

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
-Teddy Roosevelt

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Baking Sugar Pine Cones...

No one wants me to discuss Christmas when we are a week away from Thanksgiving, but the day of snow falling and the smell of pine cones baking filled the house with wonderfulness and just really made the holiday feel here.

Not only are these gorgeous cones the largest, they are truly my favorite and baking them is quite the tradition here in Tahoe.
Once the sap melts, there is a gorgeous sheen to the cone, making it last forever.  It's a plus that the sap is no longer sticky, too.

Just how do you bake a pine cone?  The biggest tip to remember is that the entire cone must be on aluminum foil.  Any part that hangs over the baking sheet will ooze sap and you will not like what happens the next time you turn on your oven.

Bake at 240° for about 30 minutes, flipping the cone over, midway.  All sap crystals should have disappeared.  What an amazing way to preserve such a beautiful piece of nature's art.

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Of Wood and Whimsy...

I have mentioned how talented our friend, Bob, is so I wanted to share his new creations...

These handmade cottages make me smile when I see them.
I have witnessed Bob's creative process in all its stages, even from painstakingly selecting the perfect piece of wood.  When he's at work, he is truly a craftsman and so very fun to watch.
This weekend is the 18th Annual Holiday Faire (a true kickoff to Christmas).  Bob, along with 24 other local vendors and artists will be offering a varied assortment of hand-made and other special items for purchase.  In addition, Santa Claus comes to visit as local school choirs and other musical groups perform both days.

Raffle tickets for raffle packages of items donated by the vendors will be available as well as hot mulled wine, hot cider, water, sodas and cookies will be available for purchase.  Can you possibly guess where I will be on Saturday I can't wait.

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♪♫It's beginning to look a little like Christmas♫♪

We had a "kick off to Christmas" kind of day.

We began our day at the USFS Supervisor's office to purchase our Christmas tree cutting permits.  "In addition to the traditional experience, the permitted collection of smaller diameter trees, with a trunk of 6 inches in diameter or less, from selected areas will contribute to a reduction of over-growth."  Look at us being all helpful!
Next stop was Valhalla's Grand Hall for a festive holiday decorating party with great food and friends and a whole lot of merry.
How magical to be at the Heller estate (1922) and to transform it for Christmas.
It was a reunion of sorts, to be together with everyone we volunteered with all summer.
After lunch at Bob and Jenny's, Jenny and I went 'hunting' for Sugar Pine cones.  Pinus lambertiana, is the tallest and most massive pine and has the longest cones of any conifer.  We search everywhere for these prized cones and stumbled upon this darling family compound.
Getting our Christmas tree cutting permit, decorating for the holidays while Christmas carols played, and finding Sugar Pine cones...
♪♫It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas♫♪.

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